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Retirement planning should not neglect the probate process

Many Massachusetts residents look forward to retirement and make sure that they plan for it. However, they fail to plan for what comes after retirement -- the probate process. Moreover, retirement plans could be interrupted by an illness or accident. Failing to plan for either of these possibilities could lead to other problems in the future.

Without an estate plan that includes at least the basic documents -- a will, powers of attorney for health care and finances, and advanced directives -- family members will have to spend time and money obtaining the right to act on behalf of a deceased relative. Further, an individual who is incapacitated will relinquish the right to maintain control over his or her estate and health care decisions. These documents allow an individual to decide in advance who will handle money and medical decisions in the event of incapacitation and who will receive what assets upon his or her death.

Nearly 40 percent of married couples have been married before. Data indicates that the divorce rate is as high as 60 percent for a second marriage. Therefore, a Massachusetts resident who has remarried needs an estate plan to help ensure that children from a prior marriage will receive assets in accordance with his or her wishes.

Most people design their estate plans to limit the time and money spent during the probate process. Depending on an individual's circumstances, it may be possible to pass nearly all of an estate without the need for probate. Planning for retirement is essential, but just as important is the need to plan for incapacitation and death.

Source: USA Today, "Big retirement mistake: Boomers with no estate plan", Rodney Brooks, April 8, 2015

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